Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Las tres lenguas

So instead of writing another essay, here's a little guide to the Buenos Aires dialect, called Lunfardo (they technically speak Castellano, which is technically Spanish). Sorry some of this is rude, but I picked up these phrases and words by just listening and observing and asking a lot of questions (thanks to coco, wake, greg, and ñaño for their help)

Some vocabulary/expressions you won't learn in Spanish 209:

estar en pedo-to be drunk
cara de culo-literally, ass face, but it means to have a sour expression
Bolitas-offensive term for Bolivians
Paraguas-offensive term for Paraguayans
asqueroso-creepy; disgusting
me importa un carajo-I don't give a shit
boludo-idiot; also used among friends as a term of endearment ("che, boludo")
cojer-in other Spanish speaking countries, this word means to take, but in Argentina, it's definitely to fuck
Andate a la mierda-go to hell/go fuck yourself
Dejame a romper las bollas-get off my nuts
pancho-hot dog
frutilla-strawberry (fresa)
anana-pineapple (piña)
birra-beer (cerveza)
shopping-centro comercial
ser buena onda-to be nice, give out good vibes
tragos-mixed drinks
gaseosa-a soft drink
vivir en un nube de pedo-kind of like "you have your head in the clouds," but literally means "to live in a cloud of fart"
amigovio-"boy" friend (guy who you hook up with)
dar a luz-give birth
malparida: cursed birth
mandar fruta-bullshitting

Special skater/kid lingo:

porro-joint (of weed)
estar re quesudo-to be a jerk-off
che-kind of like starting a sentence with dude, to get someone's attention
parcero/parce-a friend, or a dude (this word comes from Colombia)
costilla-literally, "my rib," they use it to describe a very close friend
marico-faggot, but also used like boludo, an affectionate term for your friends
marrones-gay guys
shahor-I think it comes from a Jewish expression and means "outsider"
Me da paja-it's a pain in my ass

So these are just some of the expressions that I've picked up since living in Buenos Aires and hanging out with a bunch of skater dudes. (sorry Mom, but I did leave out some of the worse stuff)

Chau! (they say "ciao" instead of adios)

Latin America is for Lovers?

I'm finally going to have to admit to myself, despite my belief that the stereotypical Latin male is/was a thing of the past, that machismo does indeed exist in Argentinean society. Of course, not all men here are patriarchal male chauvinist pigs blah blah blah. And what's more, many women find that attitude attractive. But I've found that there are subtle ways that men treat women that really don't jive with me. I once got yelled at by a Porteno guy (the whole rest of the night) for apparently "flirting" with another guy (it's a long story). Ugh the point is I was made to feel inferior for just being the way I am. Lame. Anyway, so there's just an example of my own culture shock when it comes to dealing with men here.

Since I've been posting really freaking long essays lately, I'm going to break down the dynamics of gender relations here in BsAs (from my observations)

-guys from other countries in Latin America (ahem, Venezuela) claim that Porteños are not your stereotypical "Latin Lovers" for these reasons:
-they're direct and up front about what they want (ie, if they see a hot girl in a club they're not going to waste time trying to "romance" her, they're just going to be like, "hey, come home with me"
-they don't really romance girls at all...they either pick up chicks at clubs (and go to sleezy hotels) or have sullen girlfriends that they seem to fight with/passionately make out with all the time
-these same Venezuelans claimed that Porteña girls go crazy over them because they perceive them to be the real so-called Latin lovers, because guys from BsAs are just, like, "so European" about it

I was NOT having it. Get lost, boludo.

-the Public Displays of Affection here are out of control-everywhere you look someone is sucking face...teenagers, couples on dates, old people...Anyway, at first it takes some getting used to, because hard-core making out in public back in the States is pretty much frowned upon (read, trashy). Maybe it's a subconscious act of liberation from years of sexually repressed society, or the fact that most young people still live with their parents and they don't have anywhere else to do it, or, they just want a little sugar/like to express their love all the time. Ok, I get that, no problem. But on the colectivo? Or in the sweaty subway during rush hour? Ew. Stop.

-Speaking of ew, men here definitely make it no secret if they think you're attractive. I'm not talking about just in clubs: on the streets, in the subte's, they'll make sure you know you're cute. But the thing is, when they whistle or say things like "preciosa!" or "que linda" or even "I'm going to think about you the rest of the day" (haha true story), they really mean no harm. Graciela says we should take it as a compliment. Uh...thanks? But she also said if they say offensive things, like call you a "puta" or something, then you should just ignore them and resist the urge to tell them to "andate a la mierda" (ie go fuck yourself, ahem, sorry mom). Speaking back will only encourage them. So I guess a little compliment from some rando on the street is nice every now and then, but sometimes I can't help but feel objectified (not that I get a lot of dudes trying to holla, jeez, but, many of my friends get lots of unwanted attention)

-ok, last one. This one's a little heavy: the A-word. Surprisingly, abortion's illegal here. Actually, maybe not so surprisingly. It is after all, a Catholic country. Still, with all the supposed sexual/social liberation I'm a little curious as to why Argentina hasn't lead the way in women's rights in Latin America. Looking around the streets on a typical day, there seem to be an abnormal amount of young mothers (and I mean young, early 20's) with a couple of kids in tow. Young dads too. While that's cute and all, Graciela explained to me that people aren't very smart about their sexuality (using birth control, etc) and so these young women end up getting pregnant before they've finished school, gotten jobs, or even moved out of their parents'. So the young couples could end up in a lot of trouble with a lot of mouths to feed before they're ready. Still, the babies here are absolutely adorable and most of these young couples look really happy. Sweet. But, I still wondered how girls in more unfortunate situations handled their unplanned pregnancy. I asked my friend Jonathan what they did, and he rolled his eyes and attempted to explain that they would have to go to a "witch" to obtain an illegal abortion, and that many girls end up in the hospital or even die because of unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and if they go to a hospital they face legal prosecution. Wtf???? First of all, what exactly did he mean by witch? (turns out he couldn't think of a better translation and just said that to mean old scary lady, like a mid-wife or something). Second of all, not only do these girls obtain illegal and unsafe abortions, they risk going to jail for seeking legitimate medical help afterward, and so many don't even go, and end up dying or seriously messing up their bodies. Sad. So I could rant about this for awhile, but I guess I shouldn't impose my views of women's rights on other cultures...

Anyway, so that's enough about that. Somehow though, my romantic notions of the "Latin Lover" are shattered. But I don't need to be treated like a princess; being treated like an equal is just fine, thanks.

*disclaimer: really though, not all guys are like that here, I've met some really great ones who do respect women

*sorry this was a long post

A mitad de camino

"You hear that sound? You're gonna remember that for the rest of your life. It's the song of the knife-sharpener."

So I've been here for about 2 1/2 months, which means that in exactly 2 1/2 months, I'll be leaving Buenos Aires, and, hundreds of pesos, endless new friends, way too many empanadas, and a handful of weekends of all-night hedonism later, I'm still not sure that I've come to know Buenos Aires as well as I thought I would. Borges once wrote, "And the city now, is like a map of my humiliations and failures." My feels an affinity for these words in the sound of my boots on the pavement at night, the piles of empty sugar packets next to yet another cup of coffee at el Potosi, my face reflecting in the window of the 141 during my morning bus ride to the villas. Most of my time here is spent alone: eating breakfast, walking, or sitting in my favorite cafe doing homework and listening to tapes. Sometimes I prefer to be alone in a city, weaving seamlessly in and out of the endless flow of humanity, when I can really feel that sense that Buenos Aires is as "eternal as water and air." Other times, when I'm staring out my window at night looking out at the city, I feel so overwhelmed by it's vastness, this living, breathing energy that I'm not a part of. What are these millions of people doing right now, at this moment, while I'm sipping a cafe con leche in a tiny cafe on a quiet street corner in the north part of the city? All the people I've met, or have yet to meet, or will never meet, are going about their lives, part of the endless flow of actions and words and change. It's hard to say what "experiencing" Buenos Aires really is--clubbing 'til dawn or visiting monuments? Dining at parillas or seeing a tango show or buying leather knick-knacks? Maybe so, and maybe I've missed these things in search of something else, that human contact that I'm starting to miss. I think the closest thing to the inside was my friendship with a half-French half-Porteño vago who promised he'd show me the "real Buenos Aires." But after two months of dancing and eating and drinking and sleeping in parks and wandering aimlessly and talking to people, I wonder can I really say that I know another side to the city? Could I ever? And I'm left with strange, somewhat saddening memories of awkward silences, falling leaves, streets, sunshine and rooftops and early mornings and sitting in doorways and the song of the knife sharpener. No fairy tale there, just reality. And there you go, maybe that's it: just the reality of living here, of having nothing to do, of wasting time and smoking too many cigarettes, and saying and doing all the wrong things, and losing things in translation, that constitutes the real Buenos Aires. "Welcome to South America honey," he always says to me, when I ask yet another question about why things are the way they are here. And I think now I can accept that as an answer, because maybe that's his way of saying that he can't explain it either.